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Wicca

Doctrines Wicca has no central doctrines. However, many witches adhere to the Wiccan Rede - "An it harm none, do what thou wilt" - and the Law of Threefold Return - that whatever you do, whether for good or bad, will return to you threefold. Most Wiccan traditions are initiatory, the Gardnerian and Alexandrian traditions.following the form of female initiation by a male, and male by a female. Both use three degrees of advancement, Second and Third Degree witches being regarded as High Priestess or High Priest. The degrees are not regarded as hierarchical but as a mark of proficiency and experience in the Craft, with all witches being regarded as equal. Both these traditions are based on autonomous covens (groups of witches, traditionally thirteen in number) and centres around the worship of the Goddess and her consort, the Horned God, represented by the High Priestess and High Priest of the coven. Polarity in all things is stressed - female/male, dark/light, negative/positive - and the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth is celebrated, along with fertility, through the eight seasonal festivals (see Paganism). Nature is honoured and all things, including oneself, are regarded as part of nature.
Traditional witches are those who follow practices established before Gardner. Hereditary witches also follow old practices and claim an ancestor or lineage of ancestors who were initiated witches. They are normally initiated into the Craft by a family member, with mothers initiating daughters and fathers initiating sons. Traditional and Hereditary covens are generally run by the High Priest rather than the High Priestess, and they tend to work robed rather than skyclad, preferring a black hooded cloak or robe.
Dianic covens stress the worship of the Goddess, sometimes exclusively, and as such are largely feminist and/or matriarchal in orientation. The emphasis is on rediscovering and reclaiming female power and divinity, and consciousness raising.
The Seax-Wica tradition has no oath of secrecy and is open to anyone, being readily available in the form of Buckland's book The Tree: Complete Book of Saxon Witchcraft (1974). The tradition provides for self initiation as well as for initiation by and into a coven, and each coven is entirely autonomous.and has only one degree of rank rather than three. Covens are led by a High Priestess and/or High Priest who are elected annually by all coven members and can act either alone or together, and decisions on matters such as wearing robes or worshipping skyclad are made by the whole coven. Both the High Priest and the male deity are regarded as equal in importance to the High Priestess and the female deity. Non-initiates are allowed to attend circles as guests on the agreement of the whole coven.
Faery Wicca is polytheistic and does not emphasise male/female polarities as much as other traditions. Nature is honoured and the deities (whose names are secret) personifying the forces of nature, life, fertility, death and rebirth are worshipped. Emphasis is placed upon pragmatic magic, self development and theurgy. It is an initiatory tradition, and thus some material is kept secret though much is taught openly and has been published.
Although different, the traditions of the Craft share sufficiently similar deities, forms of worship, language, symbolism and philosophy, such as moon magic, belief in reincarnation, and concept of deity as personification of powers of nature or universal life (feminine and masculine, God and Goddess),to make them recognisable as derivations of one religion.
Witches celebrate eight major festivals (called Sabbats) in common with many modern Pagan religions; these are the Celtic fire festivals of Imbolc (February 2nd), Beltane (April 30th ), Lughnasadh/Lammas (July 31st), and Samhain (October 31st), based on the agricultural year, plus the winter and summer solstices (December 21st and June 21st) and the spring and autumn equinoxes (March 21st and September 21st) (see Paganism). In addition, rituals called esbats are usually held every two weeks (traditionally according to particular lunar phases), in which teaching is given and spells are worked.
Witches keep a Book of Shadows in which to write invocations, rituals and other information and lore. They copy this book from the coven into which they are initiated, but often add to it as they gain in experience, so that no two books are exactly alike. The Book of Shadows is traditionally kept secret, and only ever shown to a fellow initiate; as its name suggests, it is regarded as a shadowy reflection of the realities of the other world.

History Wicca is a revived religious tradition, with roots reaching back into the far distant past. Between about 1480 and 1650, alleged witches were hunted and either burned or hanged; it has been suggested that as many as nine million victims died during this time2 , though more recent estimates favour a figure of 40,000 maximum. The clergy believed that a satanic conspiracy was attempting to subvert Christianity, and as a result thousands of ordinary women and, occasionally, men, were persecuted; a scornful glance to a neighbour could be interpreted as a curse and was sometimes enough to lead to execution as a witch. The power of women as village wise women, the midwives and healers, was a source of fear for the patriarchal Christian Church who believed only their (male) God could make people well again.
The path of the solitary witch, also known as hedgewitchcraft, follows the traditions of the village wise woman or cunning man, the folk healer, and the shaman. These were the wise people of the village, to whom local people would turn for healing, midwifery, fertility spells for both humans, animals and crops, for blessings and for curses.In recent years there has been an upsurge in interest in and numbers of solitary witches.who usually work either entirely alone or with their partner as a couple. In 1994, the Association of Solitary Hedgewitches (ASH) was established as a contact organisation for witches working alone to make contact with each other in order to share experiences and ideas.
Traditional and Hereditary witchcraft are two overlapping forms of witchcraft (as Traditional witches may also be from a Hereditary line) which predate the Gardnerian revival and model their rituals on various Celtic, Scandinavian and Germanic traditions. Traditional witches were reportedly furious with Gerald Gardner for popularising the old religion and regarded such enterprises as his witchcraft museum on the Isle of Man as a disaster, as both traditions are extremely secretive. Their traditions tend to be handed down in family lines
However, Wicca began to emerge in its modern form in the 1940s with Gerald Gardner, becoming more public after the repeal of the witchcraft laws in 1951. Gardner claimed to have been initiated into a group of hereditary witches in 1939; he wrote about witchcraft in a novel (High Magic's Aid) published in 1949 and after the repeal of the Witchcraft laws published more open accounts of the Craft (Witchcraft Today in 1954 followed by The Meaning of Witchcraft in 1959). Witchcraft Today vaulted Gardner into the public spotlight, and he made numerous media appearances. Both books contained information on the Craft as it existed at that time and in the following years Gardner initiated many new witches and covens sprang up operating according to the outlines provided in Gardner's books.
In the 1960s, Alex Sanders established his own version of the Craft, which became known as Alexandrian Wicca based along Gardnerian lines. With his wife Maxine he ran a coven in London, initiating and training many witches.
These are the main Wiccan traditions in Europe, though many modern day witches have brought together two or more of these traditions, fusing them together and adding their own input; in this way, the religion continually evolves.
In other countries, traditions have evolved based on these four branches and drawing in their own local or national folklore and culture. Thus, we find in Finland traditional Paganism has merged with Wicca to form its own unique style of witchcraft, whilst the USA has developed Dianic, Faery, and Seax Wicca, all of which can now be found in Europe.
Dianic Wicca emerged in the USA from the feminist consciousness movement. One of the first feminist covens was formed in Dallas, Texas by Morgan McFarland and Mark Roberts in the late 1960s, though it only later came to be called after Diana, one of the principle names for the Goddess in Witchcraft. The Dianic movement was continued by other leaders, most notable Zsuzsanna Budapest and Starhawk. An increasing number of feminists joined Dianic covens, and by the 1980s feminist witchcraft was the fastest growing segment of the Craft in the U.S.. The Dianic Tradition has spread to Europe, but covens are presently far less numerous and tend not to be as militant as their American counterparts, allowing men an equal role in worship, and worshipping both the Goddess and the Horned God as her consort.
Faery Wicca was developed by Americans Victor and Cora Anderson and Gwyddion Pendderwen in the 1970s, as an oral Tradition based on the ancient myth of a race of people skilled in magic, healing and crafts, who arrived in Ireland bringing with them a Great Mother Goddess called Dana. They became known as the Tuatha De Danaan, the Tribe of Dana, who eventually retreated into the Otherworld, the World of Faery. The tradition was originally very small and secretive, but many of the fundamentals of the tradition have become widespread through the writings of Starhawk, who is an initiate of Faery Wicca.
The Seax-Wica, or Saxon Wicca tradition was devised in 1973 by Ray Buckland, a former Gardnerian High Priest, who became disillusioned with the Craft and the corruption he saw in it - the three degrees of initiation which he felt encouraged egotistical behaviour, and the secrecy which prevented many genuine seekers of the Craft from becoming witches. It is based on the old Saxon religion, and the four principle deities of Woden, Frig or Freya, Thunor, and Tiw, but it is not preceived as a continuation or recreation of this.

Symbols Perhaps the most widespread symbol used by the Wiccan religion is that of the pentagram, the five-pointed star Each point of the star represents one of the four elements -earth, air, fire and water - and the fifth the element of aethyr,or spirit, which rules the other four. The symbol represents the subjection of the material world to the spiritual realm.
Other important symbols include the full moon with a crescent (waxing and waning) moon on either side to represent the Goddess, and a circle surmounted with curved horns to symbolise the God.
The symbol of Seax Wica is a circle containing a crescent moon and eight rays, representing the sun, the moon, and the eight sabbats (the Wheel of the Year).
In Faery Wicca the iron and pearl pentagrams are used as meditational symbols to explore the self and restore ones balance with the universe. The five points of the iron pentagram represent sex, self, passion, pride and power; those of the pearl pentagram represent love, wisdom, knowledge, law and power.

Adherents Since witches tend to be secretive, following initiatory traditions and having no central organising institution, there are no official figures available. However, witchcraft is very widespread and can be found, in one form or another, all over the world.

Headquarters None . Further information regarding solitary witchcraft can be obtained from the Association of Solitary Hedgewitches, 2, Kent View Road, Vange, Basildon, Essex.